It was supposed to be a joyous occasion, marking the commencement of a new and better phase in the life of nearly 1000 graduates. Instead, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told the 984 new lieutenants who are graduating from the U.S. Air Force Academy to prepare for the worst: war.
On Wednesday night, Mattis spoke at the graduation ceremony on the campus outside Colorado Springs and told the 2018 graduates they must be ready to fight and win. The Pentagon chief also told the 60th class to graduate from the academy that they must maintain U.S. military superiority in the air, and urged them to make the Air Force better.
As the ceremony ended, the newly commissioned officers threw their white hats into the sky as the Air Force Thunderbirds roared overhead, a longstanding tradition. Of the nearly 1000 graduates, more than 400 are headed to pilot training, and 69 will be trained to operate drones.
“Hold the line”: Defense Secy Mattis sends strong message to Air Force academy graduating class pic.twitter.com/bGrVO1GXW3— FOX & friends (@foxandfriends) May 24, 2018
To be sure, this is not the first time time Mattis who urged those around him to prepare for war.
And while not as intense, the warning is similar to that issued by a US Marine Corps general who last December, warned troops station in Norway to be prepared for a coming war. As we reported at the time, on a brief visit to the 300-member unit ahead of Christmas, the commandant and the sergeant major of the Marine Corps both described the strategic role the small unit fills -- and the fact that a peacetime mission can be preface to combat if circumstances change.
he small unit fills -- and the fact that a peacetime mission can be preface to combat if circumstances change.
“I hope I’m wrong, but there’s a war coming,” Gen. Robert Neller told them.
“You’re in a fight here, an informational fight, a political fight, by your presence.”
Neller pointed to the near future possibility of Russia and the Pacific theater being the next major areas of conflict. Sgt. Maj. Ronald Green sounded a similar tone.
"Just remember why you're here," Green said. "They're watching. Just like you watch them, they watch you. We've got 300 Marines up here; we could go from 300 to 3,000 overnight. We could raise the bar."
The warnings came a day before Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told troops at Fort Bragg, N.C., that "storm clouds are gathering" over the Korean Peninsula.